Coming into this season, the Phoenix Suns didn’t have a high bench mark to reach in order to impress their fans and for it to be considered successful. However, the team blew that expectation out of the water and looked like a brand new squad in their first ten games. Recently the Suns have struggled but with nearly 20% of the season done, how have the Suns done so far this season?
The Phoenix Suns started the season off strong compared to previous years, going 6-4 with wins over the 76ers and the Clippers. The hype coming off those wins was beautiful yet that was replaced with a cold streak from the team. In the last ten games, the Suns have gone 3-7 with losses to the Lakers, Magic and Pelicans.
During that ten game stretch, the Suns offense has been effective in getting points, ranking ninth in points per game with 112.2. The team is still high on assists, ranking second with 27.7 per game and fourth in turnovers allowed with 13 per game. It’s the defense that’s struggled with the team ranking 24th in Defensive Rating over those 10 games with 113.9. Though the team is 12th in steals per game, the team is 27th and 29th in blocks and defensive rebounds respectively.
Injuries and a major suspension have been hurting the team recently as starting point guard Ricky Rubio has missed several games and the Suns centers Aron Baynes and Deandre Ayton have been in and out of the lineup all year. It’s tough to get consistent play from your team when three key players aren’t playing. This has hurt the defensive side a lot more than the offensive since Devin Booker and Kelly Oubre Jr. are good enough scorers to get theirs most nights. Even with him trying to work within the system of coach Monty Williams, Booker is averaging 24.1 points per game, 15th in the league, while also averaging 6.2 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game.
Also, it’s not like the Suns are getting blown out in these games as they’ve only lost four games by double digit points. Just last year, the Suns had a -9.3 point differential, this year, the Suns have a 1.1 differential. That’s obvious growth, growth that wasn’t in Phoenix for years.
The Suns looked great those first ten games and they still have that potency there with the offense. The defense has struggled to keep pace since then but once Ayton returns and Baynes gets healthy, the team should rise up the rankings defensively. It’s tough to know how good the team will be once Ayton returns within the next few games but he’s an extremely talented player. There’s no reason this team can’t revolve back into how they looked in the beginning of the season when he’s back, a top team that’ll compete every night.
However, there needs to be realistic expectations for the team. The Suns aren’t going to go win the championship this year, nor is the team most likely going to win a playoff series unless injuries completely decimate the opposing team. The Suns are a young squad that’s a tough out in the regular season but the game changes in the postseason. It gets slower, more physical and defensive play rises as well. It wouldn’t be fair for us to look at this team and expect them to win a playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers, Clippers or the Denver Nuggets. I could see the Suns beating the Dallas Mavericks but that’s because that team is also young and doesn’t have that much postseason experience.
I think the Suns are more like the team in the first ten games than the last ten. Injuries and a drop off in defensive play have hurt the team these last ten games but they’re still miles better than they’ve previously been. The Suns’ currently have the eight seed right now, which it’s been a long time since the Suns were even a position to talk playoffs after November. It’s still early in the year but with nearly 20% of the season done, the Suns look like a team that’s on the rise, instead of slumping at the bottom of the standings.